New Covid Nightingale “surge hubs” are being set up by the NHS at hospitals across England to help deal with a potential wave of Omicron hospitalisations.
Work on eight hubs is due to begin this week, NHS England has said, and each centre will have capacity for around 100 patients.
Additional sites could also be set up to free up a further 4,000 “super surge” beds.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Given the high level of Covid-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing.
“We do not yet know exactly how many of those who catch the virus will need hospital treatment, but given the number of infections we cannot wait to find out before we act and so work is beginning from today to ensure these facilities are in place.
“We hoped never to have to use the original Nightingales and I hope we never have to use these new hubs.”
How will the hubs be used?
The new Nightingale hubs will be managed by hospital consultants, nurses, and other clinical and non-clinical staff.
They are intended to be used for patients who are not yet fit for discharge, but only need minimal support and monitoring while they recover from illness.
The announcement comes as hospitals are using hotels, hospices and care homes to safely discharge as many patients who are medically fit to leave as possible, thereby freeing up beds for those who need them most.
NHS Trusts have also been tasked with identifying other facilities, such as gyms and education centres, which could be converted to accommodate up to 4,000 “super surge” patients - which would be roughly four times the number at a typical large district hospital.
Where will the hubs be based?
The hubs will be set up at the following locations across England:
- Royal Preston hospital
- St James’ University Hospital in Leeds
- Lister Hospital in Stevenage
- St George’s Hospital in London
- The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent
- North Bristol Hospital and Solihull Hospital
- University Hospitals Birmingham
- University Hospitals Leicester
An NHS national deal with Hospice UK will also see up to 4,800 people a day who need ongoing monitoring, but do not need to be in hospital, receive support in either a hospice bed or through [email protected] teams.
Additionally, the NHS will be ramping up the use of virtual wards, where patients get monitoring technology and regular check-ins with clinicians, and GPs will have access to up to 250,000 pulse oximeters – devices that can read blood-oxygen levels by scanning a finger tip.
This will allow patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 to monitor their own blood oxygen levels at home, ensuring only those who need to be are admitted to hospital.